Former PRT director to head scandal-ridden hospitality association
South Carolina’s former top tourism guy will now work to rebuild the scandal-scarred hospitality association.
John Durst, who served as director of S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism from 2000-2003, was announced today as the new president and CEO of the newly named South Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association.
Durst takes over the former S.C. Hospitality Association as the agency tries to remake itself following an embezzlement scandal last spring that sent one employee to prison and caused the former director to commit suicide.
The association’s former accountant, Rachel Duncan, admitted to stealing from the tourism trade group starting in 2006 and continuing through early 2012. She was sentenced earlier this year to 30 months in prison.
After learning in February that Duncan was being investigated for the stolen money, which added up to nearly $500,000, the association’s longtime CEO, Tom Sponseller, shot and killed himself.
Durst said Thursday his number one priority will be to meet with as many of the agency’s 1,400 members as he can and find out how the agency can serve them better.
The group’s new board chairman, David McMillan of Murrell’s Inlet, said the agency has been through “some rough waters” the past few months, but he said new policies have been put in place to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.
Among those, he said, are new internal and external controls, an audit committee and a requirement for two signatures on checks.
McMillan said the name change was as much about de-stigmatizing the agency as it was about choosing the opportunity to better represent the industries it serves.
Read more in tomorrow’s editions of The Post and Courier.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.